There was a sultry air hanging over the Four Beasts this morning, almost as if spring had passed by in the blink of an eye and summer had arrived. For the first time, I was able to capture a close-up of a butterfly along a hillside trail. A symbol of hope for the future perhaps. Or more likely just a lucky break. Continue reading Notes from the field: a sultry air hanging over the Four Beasts
Here is a list of resources covering Book 6 of the Analects of Confucius. You can click on the links below to learn more about the main themes of the book: Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 6: resources
How to be the best you can be? This is the question Confucius raises in 6.29 of the Analects. His answer is that it’s by applying the “golden mean” (中庸 /zhōngyōng), a dynamic process that enables you to maintain a constant state of balance in your character and attitude towards life.
In 6.18, Confucius describes the two key forces that drive the application of the golden mean. Native substance (質/zhì) and cultural refinement (文/wén) comprise a complementary and conflicting duality that needs to be constantly tweaked to maintain the optimum equilibrium. If you don’t put enough focus on learning, you risk becoming as coarse as a peasant; if you put too much focus on learning, you risk becoming as pedantic as a clerk. The goal is to hit the mark in the middle. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 6: Confucius on the golden mean
Do wisdom (仁/rén) and goodness (知/zhī) go hand in hand? Although Confucius doesn’t give an explicit answer to this question in Book 6 of the Analects, he does show that there is a very close link between them.
When the follower Fan Chi asks Confucius about these two subjects in 6.22, Confucius tells him that wisdom means doing “what is right for the common people” and that goodness requires being “first in line to confront difficulties and last in line to collect rewards.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 6: Confucius on wisdom and goodness
Having put his followers under the microscope in the first half of Book 6 of the Analects, Confucius laments in 6.17, “Who would leave a house except through the doorway? Why is it that nobody follows the way?”
Confucius, in other words, finds it impossible to understand why his followers are either unable or unwilling to fully embrace the “way” (道/dào) that he has charted for them and worked so hard to lead them along. He is mystified and no doubt frustrated that they find it so difficult to follow what he sees as the natural and obvious path for anyone who aspires to be a leader (君子/jūnzǐ). Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 6: why is it that nobody follows the way?
Confucius has more than his fair share of awkward encounters with his followers in Book 6 of the Analects. The most notable one is with Zilu of all people. In 6.28, he is extremely unhappy when he learns about the sage’s visit to Nanzi, the allegedly depraved and scheming consort of Duke Ling of Wei. Although Confucius protests that nothing untoward happened during the audience, Zilu is rightly incensed that at the very least his master has sullied his reputation by meeting with her.
The young follower Zai Yu, of rotten wood and dung wall fame, attempts to put Confucius on the spot in 6.26 when he asks if a good person should jump into a well if he hears that someone is lying at the bottom of it. Confucius manages to bat the question away with relative ease by explaining that while it’s possible that a leader can be enticed down the wrong path, he wouldn’t be gullible enough to fall into a trap. So much for Zai Yu’s cunning plan to bamboozle the sage with a trick question. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 6: awkward encounters
In stark contrast with the totally devoted Yan Hui, Ran Qiu isn’t that bothered about following the teachings of Confucius and adhering to the sage’s strict moral principles. In 6.12 he unrepentantly admits: “It’s not that I don’t enjoy the way of the Master, but I don’t have the strength to follow it.”
Although Confucius attempts to encourage Ran Qiu to stay on track, his response that he can give up half-way if he doesn’t have enough strength to go on suggests that the sage understands that he is pursuing a lost cause. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 6: a rocky relationship with Ran Qiu
Confucius has a high regard for Ran Yong, otherwise known as Zhonggong, judging by his opening comment in Book 6. By declaring that “Ran Yong could take a seat facing south”, he is saying that he is fit to be a feudal lord, who traditionally sat in that position while presiding over the his court and ritual ceremonies.
The sage expresses his admiration for Ran Yong using a much more colorful metaphor in 6.7 while imploring people not be prejudiced against his lowly origins and focus on his abilities. “Some might hesitate to choose the offspring of a plow ox for a sacrifice,” he says, “but if a bullock has fine horns and sports a ruddy coat would the spirits of the hills and rivers reject it?” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 6: Confucius and Ran Yong
In Book 6 of the Analects, Confucius expresses his devastation at the loss of Yan Hui, his protégé and favorite, on three occasions. When Duke Ai, the nominal ruler of the state of Lu, asks him in 6.3 which of his followers love learning, he laments: “There was Yan Hui who loved learning; he never vented his anger; he never made the same mistake again. Sadly, his life was cut short and he died. I have not heard of anyone else with such a love of learning.”
It’s important to note that rather than talk about the intellectual knowledge that Yan Hui has accumulated as a result of his love of learning, Confucius focuses on demonstrating how he exhibits this knowledge though his conduct, including keeping his temper under control and never repeating previous mistakes. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 6: Confucius laments the loss of Yan Hui
Book 6 of the Analects continues along the same lines as Book 5 with more comments from Confucius about his followers and historical and contemporary figures. 15 followers, 7 contemporary figures, and the legendary sage kings Yao and Shun are featured.
The followers Ran Yong, Ran Qiu, and Yan Hui each receive three mentions, while Zilu and Zigong get two. All the others are only featured once. Among these, Yuan Xian, Min Ziqian, Ran Geng (Boniu), and Tantai Mieming make their debut in the Analects. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 6: by numbers